My hobby horse is about making training simple and memorable. After 18 years of designing specialised training programmes for a variety of institutions and corporate clients, I have no doubt that any training can be done creatively and leave a lasting impression, and we all have a duty to do that.
So why not apply that logic to compliance? In many organisations, the teams and budget to embed compliance are much bigger than those for other training, reflecting both the importance of compliance and the pressures faced by management.
Spending on training runs into billions every year, but often without a substantial return on that investment, so it’s fair to say that the same most likely applies to compliance.
Given the growing number of regulations most industries have to adhere to, greater policing of the rules and the threat of penalties and other punitive action, it’s understandable that managers see compliance as a necessary evil.
But, I’m arguing for a radically different approach. After all, we all want safe workplaces, products that adhere to industry standards and to work within the law. What if we decided that compliance is good for business and adopted a different approach?
Like with most things, the problems start at the design phase, as no one pays attention to the fact that there shouldn’t be a uniform approach to all staff. Successful training design is not a one size fits all. In my experience, there’s usually a huge divide between the geeks who lap up the rules and regulations and the majority, who are reluctant participants. Besides, content for an executive, out of necessity, must be different to that crafted for a specialist operator of machinery or a front-of-office staff member.
A one-size-fits-all approach, as mentioned above, never works and is simply a huge waste of time and money.
How about thinking of compliance as a long journey on an aeroplane. Passengers are grouped into upper, business and economy class; staff on board are experts at serving food and drinks and keeping order in the cabins; while the crew pilot the plane. Even before take-off, the ground staff do the preparatory work.
Now imagine if we applied a similar treatment to compliance? The benefits are likely to be enormous and easy to see. I can think of a few:
- Instead of everyone getting exactly the same material, there will be differentiation, much like the service in the different cabins;
- Never underestimate the value of a good story or great inflight entertainment. A jaded crew working on powerline construction, hospital staff dealing with infection control, or bankers on the lookout for money laundering all have the same needs: to understand their roles in the bigger scheme of things and appreciate how they can make a difference. Create compelling narratives so people see themselves as playing a vital and necessary role;
- Cabin crews are taught to be aware of passengers’ needs, so too should facilitators;
- In some instances, and like passengers on a long-haul flight, staff get to choose their own “in-flight” entertainment through the use of digital platforms, allowing them to absorb the material at their own pace;
- A long flight means passengers have to conform to a set of unwritten rules to ensure a pleasant journey. Compliance is easier because the rules and regulations are explicit, but like a planeload of people, everyone in a business is on the same journey and if one person breaks the rules, it is likely to affect everyone;
- It’s a fair guess that the majority of the people on a flight scheduled the trip in advance looked forward to it and were committed to making the most of the journey. How about encouraging the same attitude to compliance?
- Which brings me to the point about preparation. Getting the marketing, training, and compliance departments to work together may take some persuasion but will be worth the effort if staff can be persuaded to look forward to the compliance training sessions. Whatever the monetary investment – and I bet that it won’t blow the budget – the return is likely to be massive. Besides, we live in an era where FOMO – the fear of missing out – is real. Why not capitalise on that, especially among young, media-savvy staff?
By its nature, compliance tends to be legalistic and prescriptive, leaving little room for the imagination. But therein lies the challenge. Do Regulatory Exams have to be voluminous? Can induction programmes not be done off-site and is it possible to change the behaviour of compliance officers so that they see their roles as vital for the business and not just as the guardians of necessary paperwork?
The time is right for a paradigm shift. With so many more interactive options available, we’re not compelled to keep compliance in the realm of the classroom.
I’m not agitating that we break the rules … just the mould into which compliance has been cast for too long now.